Slow Fashion – Is It Really A Game Changer?
For jarringly long, economic growth and booming bottom lines have been hailed at the expense of sustainability, equality and fair labour laws. By the same token, fast fashion endorses a deeply problematic throwaway culture of mindless consumption. Where colour combinations, price tags and
novelty take precedence over concerns about drought and food scarcity. The rise of slow fashion is the counter movement paving a new path forward.
The Problem with Fast Fashion
Despite Greta Thunbergs unfaltering advocacy for a more ethically sound approach and more modest behaviour, we continue to be flooded with images of young women proudly snapping yet another #ootd.
Few industries have embraced self-reinvention as vigorously as the fashion industry. Catwalk outfits that were previously far outside the reach of anyone with a regular income are now purchasable at the
price of a BigMac through sites like boohoo.com and Asos. They have democratised access to celebrity outfits through cheaper yet strikingly similar replicates.
Further boosted by social media platforms like Instagram, the lifespan of an outfit has been severely shortened due to phenomena such as #ootd. Pushing young men and women into a cycle of purchase, discard and purchase again. But the costs of fast fashion goes beyond the price tag.
Fast Fashion Gone Rogue According to a report, Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability, published by the UK Parliament highlights that the UK’s consumption of new clothing is higher than any other European country at 26.7kg per capita! A whopping 38% higher than the next in line, Germany.
But the government’s efforts to tackle the issue are underwhelming to say the least. Refusing to impose the 1p levy on each garment was a silent yet devastating blow to slow fashion advocates. The most polluting industries continue to manufacture, produce, sell and waste with impunity.
The fashion industry accounts for 5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Pulse Of The Fashion Industry report. And textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. But how we consume clothes is only half the story; garment production is responsible for two-thirds of the environmental harm. This goes to show the complex life story of what we wear when manufacturing, transporting, packaging and selling a garment enter the equation as well. We cannot divorce the fashion industry from its suppliers, facilitators and proponents.
Fast fashion can’t continue
We have reached a tipping point where the imminent threat of environmental disaster lurks in the burning piles of Burberry items. To safeguard exclusivity, overproduction is countered by setting £30m worth of stock on fire. Due to a lack of transparency, adequately quantifying the extent of the problem has proven incredibly difficult.
H&M’s Conscious collection was heavily criticised for failing to establish exactly what constituted the conscious elements of ‘Conscious’, leading to accusations of “greenwashing” marketing strategies. Hijacking sustainability jargon for profit are as problematic as the plastic destroying our oceans. This is why we created Compare Ethics, with out ranking algorithm we verify the sustainability claims of brands so consumers can trust what they hear.
What Does Slow Fashion Mean?
While we expect systemic change to occur in political forums and ministers’ offices, people like Greta Thunberg and Malala demonstrate the far reaching impact of individual action and commitment. Although few of us may aspire to set sail for New York on a zero-carbon yacht to appeal for deeper emissions cuts at the Climate Action Summit, we can join the movement through smaller but crucial steps to decrease consumption. When we deselect unethical fashion, we show retailers that climate
change is a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, big brands shape their strategies according to consumers’ spending habits. So we have a tremendous responsibility to choose ethically in the fight against global warming.
Wear your clothes multiple times
Zara recently committed to using 100% sustainable fabric by 2025, setting a strong example around the industry. Kim Kardashian and the Duchess of Sussex made a point of wearing the same outfit twice, a somewhat controversial move for women of this (fast) fashion calibre. Slow fashion is sustainable and is making a point that it’s – surprisingly enough – ok to wear an outfit more than once.
Shop ethical brands and reduce consumption
The movement for slow fashion has morphed into several methodologies for sustainable action. While some swear by minimal consumption, others screen online stores for ethical brands. A separate camp includes those who have committed wholeheartedly to clothing swaps or altering what is already hanging in their closet.
But as we crawl the internet for alternative consumption habits, it is perhaps worth reevaluating the very concept of consumption. The fashion industry is one of many heavily polluting industries which all need to come to grips with their environmental impact but it is only the tip of the iceberg. The food we eat, the cars we drive, the countries we visit, the houses we build all demand scrutiny, from their supply chain to their afterlife.
Slow Fashion Means A Slow Life
The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 where more than 1,000 garment workers died, painfully showcases how far beyond a single item the fashion industry operates. Each piece represents a long and often untraceable journey across the globe before we get the chance to swipe
our cards and make it ours. Ignoring these devastating consequences of fast fashion and bloated margins threaten to undermine the movement as a whole.
Ultimately, this calls for a lifestyle change where we accept, embrace and cherish a life of less meat, public transport, no flying and a smaller wardrobe. In many ways, it takes slow fashion and makes it
slow life. We must collectively push for a circular economy where no amount of money can exempt anyone from contributing. It requires conscious choices from the time we wake up until we go to bed.
This takes commitment, stamina and patience. It means we vote for those who pledge to change the structures of the economy as a driver for real change. We may have to boycott brands, places and destinations we hold dear. But if we wish to see a planet fit for the next generation, action must happen not tomorrow or next week but today, in this moment, right now.
6 Slow Fashion Brands
At Compare Ethics, we have verified the slow fashion and sustainable credentials of over 45 brands. You can find our curation of ethical fashion brands you can trust here.
Below are a few of the slow fashion brands we have verified:
Birdsong are a slow fashion uk brand that only creates clothes in small batches. They create clothing for women who dress in protest. Wearing their collection of original wardrobe staples is a protest against the fast nature of the fashion industry.
Slow sustainable fashion with serious style. Vildnis are committed to always strive to use the most environmentally friendly fabrics and production methods available.
This vegan slow fashion brand uses only the most sustainable materials with a dedication to helping reduce the ever increasing impact of clothing on the planet, and all life. All their clothes are made by Fair Wear manufacturers.
Born out of an ambition to push boundaries in sustainable fashion, Gung Hos collections are not just handmade locally using sustainable fabrics. Each collection is centred on an environmental issue. And donates to a charity that works with the cause in question with every item sold.
Pala is a brand on a mission that offer both recycled acetate (made using otherwise binned factory offcuts) and bio-based sunglasses designs. They go a step further and make their sunglasses cases from old plastic bags weaved together by artisans in Ghana.
WAWWA are another brand bringing slow fashion to the uk. They put the planet first by using Organic clothing and recycled clothing. Each of their recycled t-shirts remove an average of 2 bottles of plastic that would otherwise be sitting around, decomposing slowly.
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By Kimie Fregnler, Senior Contributor at Compare Ethics